I remember reading with a student who could easily read any word or phrase placed in front of him. The problem? He wasn’t reading with comprehension. This often happens with individuals who are learning the English language but are quick to master English word reading. Other times, the reason for it isn’t as easily explained. Regardless, reading with comprehension is essential as it’s the difference between simply reading words and the words on the page coming to life and captivating the reader!
What can be done to help ensure words on the page are more than just that for our children? How can we make sure we are improving their reading comprehension levels? What can we do to help these word readers out?
If you’re looking for ways to help your child’s reading comprehension improve, keep reading! I’m going through 5 of my favorite strategies for teaching children to read with comprehension below.
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Strategy 1: Make Predictions and Compare Them to What Actually Happens
How many of us have gone to the movies without watching the trailer first? This rarely happens! We watch the trailer and excitedly anticipate what we’re going to see. Naturally, we make predictions.
Have you ever then irresistibly whispered to your neighbor what you thought was going to happen? At least one of my kids does this to me every time we watch a movie together. It’s a sure sign that they’re fully invested in the movie!
Is it important to make these predictions? Definitely! They help our brain to process what’s happening! Is it a failure if the predictions don’t come true? Not at all! In fact, the movie would be super boring if our predictions did come true! We remain invested in a movie because of both the story line and the anticipation of what’s to come!
The same goes for books. It’s important for readers to review the synopsis at the back of a book. We can then use that information to anticipate not only whether or not the book will be of interest to us, but also to make predictions in regards to what we believe may happen. The step of making predictions and comparing them with what actually happens is also important to review after each chapter or section of a book.
The purpose of making predictions is NOT to be correct. That would make for a boring book. Our predictions should be possible, but a great book will have us comparing what we think will happen with what actually happens. It’s helpful to take time and do this comparison as doing so keeps our readers engaged! Therefore, this is an important step for reading with comprehension.
Strategy 2: The Who, What, Where Strategy
The who, what, where strategy refers to the following questions: Who is in the scene? What is happening? Where are they?
It’s important to be able to answer each of these three questions continuously as we read. For some in which drifting off from their reading happens frequently, it may need to be practiced after each minute or paragraph of reading. For others, reviewing at the end of a chapter is sufficient.
To build stamina in this area and to improve an individual’s ability for reading with comprehension, I have set a timer for students and had them answer these questions each time the timer went off. I then slowly increase the time intervals.
For my visual learners, I encourage them to close their eyes and draw what is happening when the timer goes off. I ask them to close their eyes simply because I want the focus to stay on visualizing the story instead of on perfecting their artwork.
Once readers become increasingly proficient with answering the who, what, where questions, other questions such as how a character would feel can be added.
Strategy 3: Using Knowledge of Common Punctuation
Punctuation helps with knowing how a story is to be told. For example, the use of a comma can indicate that someone is about to speak. It can also indicate that the author wants to break up a sentence or provide more information. It’s also common for definitions of difficult words to be given between commas or after one. Teaching our readers this and having them practice looking for commas and analyzing their purpose can be helpful when working on reading with comprehension.
Other punctuation, such as a question mark or exclamation point will change how we read a particular sentence.
Regardless of the punctuation, the types that end at the bottom right of words are best to pause immediately after when reading. This includes periods, commas, exclamation points and so on. Knowing and implementing this can help a lot with comprehension, especially if your reader is one who currently is not pausing when reading.
Quotation marks are another method of punctuation that need to be taught. They indicate that someone is speaking. This may seem obvious to those of us who already know this, but it can be confusing for individuals who don’t know it. To add to this, teaching our readers that new speakers will be introduced in a new line or paragraph within a story is also important knowledge for reading with comprehension.
Try having punctuation be the focus when reading with your child for an evening or two. Stopping to discuss why an author used a comma or certain punctuation mark can really help kids digest and retain the information, thus making it an automatic part of their reading comprehension skills. If the story contains dialogue, stopping to discuss who is speaking and how our reader knows this can also be helpful to work on.
Strategy 4: Use Typography Tips
Why are words italicized or bolded within a story? Italicized words can be used to show that a word is to be emphasized in reading it. They can also indicate thoughts or a dream. Some authors prefer the use of bolded words to show this, especially when wanting a word or phrase emphasized.
This switches when it comes to textbook reading. Bolded words within a textbook are bolded at the beginning of a chapter to indicate the word is in the glossary or is being defined somewhere on the page. These words are generally only bolded the first time they are seen within a chapter. Knowing this information can really help students with comprehension of textbook reading, as they become aware that more information is provided within the textbook should they need it.
When these pieces of information are specifically brought to the attention of our children, it can really help them for reading with comprehension. Simply pointing out some of these examples and having discussions around why the author has used italicized or bolded words will help our children understand their uses and, in turn, better understand what they’re reading.
Strategy 5: Practice Reading with Emphasis
Have you ever told a really exciting and engaging story using a monotone voice? Probably not. A good story should be told with emphasis. This, too, will help with reading comprehension. Reading with emphasis will require reading stories aloud which will also help with fluency.
Reading with emphasis tends to require practice. It may help to have your child read a sentence once, then go back and reread it with emphasis. Once understood, knowledge around the punctuation and typography used within a sentence will give clues as to how the sentence should be read.
In my opinion, reading aloud is often discouraged way too early. Kids become encouraged to read “in their heads” to allow for silence. Yet reading aloud provides the practice for improved fluency and reading with emphasis that’s so important. Each of these skills also helps our children read with comprehension. If keeping the reading environment quiet is necessary, many find reading with these auditory feedback phones helpful.
If there is a younger child in the home, he/she can provide an ideal practice opportunity for the monotone reader. A favorite stuffy or family pet can also be great for our children to read to, especially if they aren’t taking the risks for reading with emphasis with us as willingly.
Can our children change voices to match the character and tone to match the mood of the character? Are they using clues within the story to know when to pause and/or to know how a character would feel? Reading with emphasis is not only fun, but it definitely helps improve one’s reading comprehension as well.
Need more reading help?
Do you have readers in your life that don’t appear to be grasping reading as you believe they should be? Do you want to know what’s getting in the way of your child’s ability to read with ease?
If so, check out Y Literacy’s FREE Masterclass to help you determine what specific type of reading needs your child might have. Understanding this is key to providing your child with the targeted support necessary for his/her specific reading needs.